Matt Harrison's Extension and the 5 Smartest Moves of the MLB Offseason
In one of the smartest moves of the MLB offseason, the Texas Rangers completed a five-year, $55 million extension to keep Matt Harrison in their starting rotation. Other teams have made similar, fiscally responsible choices over the past few months.
The following baseball transactions bring either long-term or immediate gratification. Each carries very little risk and potentially great rewards.
The masterminds behind these moves have been consistent with their approaches over the past several years, leading to on-field success and high expectations for 2013.
Nov. 26: Tampa Bay Rays Extend Evan Longoria
The Tampa Bay Rays guaranteed the three club options from Evan Longoria's previous deal and added $100 million on top of that. This extension also includes a $13 million club option for 2023, his age-37 season.
Why the rush?
Third baseman David Wright and the New York Mets were simultaneously finalizing a record-breaking negotiation. Seeing him receive an extra $38 million might have made Longoria think twice about accepting Tampa Bay's offer.
Longo will be playing under very team-friendly terms. Compared to Wright, the 27-year-old is a fine defender and superior power hitter, but he'll be earning a lower annual salary even after the new money kicks in.
Payroll restrictions make it challenging for the Rays to buy proven run producers. They must be ecstatic to have one under contract for the next decade.
Dec. 7: Washington Nationals Sign Dan Haren
In a world where Jeremy Guthrie receives $25 million in free agency, a younger innings-eater like Dan Haren only gets half as much?
That's just great business by the Washington Nationals. They pursued Haren coming off a poor season knowing he'd prefer a shorter deal that would let him get back on the market next winter.
The worst-case scenario involves him missing the majority of 2013 with injury or struggling to keep balls in the yard for a second straight year. At least he would come off the books following the World Series.
Neither disappointment, however, can prevent Washington from clinching a playoff berth. The Nats should easily be a top-five NL team after retaining Adam LaRoche, adding Rafael Soriano and acquiring Denard Span. It also helps to have Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg one step closer to their baseball primes.
With so much rotation depth, the team can compete in October without giving any starts to Haren.
Though the Nats are surely hoping the right-hander returns to the durable and efficient form that made him one of the sport's best from 2005 through 2011, it won't hurt them much at all if he doesn't.
Dec. 11: Cincinnati Reds Trade for Shin-Soo Choo
Last season's Cincinnati Reds finished with the franchise's lowest offensive output in 15 years. Despite that, a healthy starting rotation and shutdown bullpen allowed them to coast to an NL Central title.
Even if the pitching staff takes a step back, Cincinnati can feel confident behind new leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo.
He is an on-base machine (.381 career OBP) who typically totals about 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases when healthy.
The Reds received Choo in a three-team trade and didn't lose much in the process. They shipped strikeout-prone Drew Stubbs to the Cleveland Indians and surplus shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 30-year-old will be particularly motivated entering his walk year. Earning an All-Star selection and proving he can patrol center field could lead to a lucrative contract in a large market.
Jan. 2: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays Avoid Arbitration
This $10.1 million arbitration settlement is a bittersweet feat for Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman.
On a positive note, it pleases the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. David Price will make considerably more than the $9.5 million Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projected.
Moreover, as Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports details, the two sides reached an agreement in late December. The Rays immediately paid David Price a $5 million signing bonus, which counts as 2012 income. That money, therefore, is not affected by the newly raised top federal income tax rate.
Morosi explains the flip side:
There also was a clever wrinkle in this deal for the Rays: the $4 million in 2013 salary that will be deferred until 2014.
Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but with each passing day it becomes less likely that the low-budget Rays will be able to sign him to a long-term extension...the franchise’s financial model doesn’t seem to permit carrying expensive starting pitchers.
Any exchange would net a handful of impact players capable of keeping Tampa Bay in contention for years to come. The buying team would also be on the hook for that deferred sum if Price finds a new home later this year.
For now, though, he's with the Rays and making much less than other elite MLB starters.
Jan. 16: Texas Rangers Lock Up Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison nearly doubled his career wins total during a breakout 2011 campaign. He continued to improve last season by trimming his walk rate and frequently pitching into the later innings.
GM Jon Daniels is understandably encouraged by the present composition of the Texas Rangers rotation and its future potential. Aside from Harrison, the team controls Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando through the 2017 season. Each of them is under 30 years old.
Meanwhile, the rival Los Angeles Angels have scrambled to find somebody to take the pressure off Jered Weaver.
The All-Star-caliber encore validated Harrison as a legitimate ace. He's simply an intelligent pitcher—not a beneficiary of lucky BABIP, exceptional velocity or friendly ballpark factors.
The Rangers should feel giddy after locking up such a competitor at just $11 million per season.